Busting Out of the Big House

Tensions rarely run higher on-screen than they do in the prison-break movie, in which characters doing time behind bars risk it all for a shot at freedom. Right now on the Criterion Channel, for our series Jailbreak!, we’ve rounded up eight of the most masterful takes on this nerve-racking suspense-film subgenre. Among these timeless cellblock-busters are the meticulously plotted POW escapes of Jean Renoir’s Grand Illusion, Billy Wilder’s Stalag 17, and Robert Bresson’s A Man Escaped; the hard-hitting noir of Anthony Mann’s Raw Deal and Jules Dassin’s Brute Force; and the dystopian vision of John Carpenter’s Escape from New York, in which the urban jungle of Manhattan serves as a futuristic penal colony. For a taste of the taut, high-stakes drama on offer in our series—which, with Jacques Becker’s Le trou and Jim Jarmusch’s Down by Law, also delves into the combustible group dynamics that can attend the pen-springing process—look no further than the teaser above.

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